Staff Sgt. Julian R. Wiggins and Spc. Daniel Farrier are winners of the 2008 Best Warrior competitions for U.S. Army Medical Command. Wiggins, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Fort Jackson, S.C., Veterinary Treatment Facility, and Farrier, a pharmacy technician at Stuttgart, Germany, Army Health Clinic, emerged victorious from a grueling five days of physical and mental challenges.

The competition was held April 6-10 at Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis, Texas. All competitors first passed a 100-question written test and wrote an essay about current events. They passed the Army Physical Fitness Test, were questioned by boards of senior NCOs and demonstrated marksmanship with M-16 rifles. They negotiated an urban orienteering course both by day and night and completed an obstacle course. In simulated tactical scenarios, they treated and evacuated casualties of a roadside bomb, then cleared a building under fire. Finally, the competitors squared off in a double elimination combatives tournament.

"It was tough, one of the best I've ever been to. You had to be in shape," said Wiggins.

"There was a lot of (hiking with full packs). You had to be physically and mentally tough," agreed Farrier.

Corporals and higher ranks were in the NCO competition while specialists and lower ranks competed as soldiers.

Competition actually began last year when local units selected their best soldiers and NCOs. Local winners competed in each of six regional medical commands. The regional winners then joined representatives of Dental Command, Veterinary Command, the Army Medical Department Center and School and Medical Research and Materiel Command for the finals at Fort Sam Houston.

"We conduct these competitions to recognize the best soldiers and NCOs, but it is primarily about training-it is not just a competition. We expect each candidate to be well trained when they come, and better trained when they leave. They should take what they learn here back to their units," said MEDCOM Command Sgt. Maj. Althea C. Dixon.

Dixon was Soldier of the Year of the old Health Services Command in 1983.

"It's tougher and much more realistic than when I was here," she said. "These soldiers are being tested on situations they might actually encounter."

"I want to lead by example for my Soldiers," said Wiggins. "I'm going to send them to war; I wanted to show them I had done this."

Wiggins has been in the Army 11 years and is Air Assault and Combat Lifesaver qualified. He lists combatives as one of his hobbies, and it showed as he won the NCO tournament.

Farrier has been in the Army three years and has qualified as a Certified Pharmacy Technician. He keeps in shape by boxing and playing Rugby for his post team.

Farrier said winning the title was a personal challenge he set for himself. He said anyone competing at this level has to have a plan and stick to it.

"Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it," he added.

Wiggins and Farrier each received an Army Commendation Medal, a trophy, a $1,000 Savings Bond, MEDCOM coins and certificates and the right to request their assignment of choice. They will compete in the Army Best Warrior competition later this year.